The Recommended Cholesterol Levels by Age
Good heart health is like a building block: It’s cumulative.
The earlier you try to start making healthy lifestyle choices, the better off you can be as you get older. Think about making small changes now that will lead to big changes years later. It’s like a train altering its course slightly, which leads to a big difference in its final destination.
This is particularly true when it comes to high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance your liver makes. It’s also found in certain foods. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly. But having too much of the bad type of cholesterol — LDL — puts you at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol in your bloodstream can build up in blood vessel walls, causing blockages that can lead to:
- reduced blood flow to the heart and increased risk for heart attack
- decreased blood flow to the brain and increased risk for stroke
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, having high cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease.
Your total cholesterol level is the overall amount of cholesterol found in your blood. It consists of:
- low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
- high-density lipoproteins (HDL)
LDL is also called “bad” cholesterol because it blocks your blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease. HDL is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps protect you from heart disease. The higher your HDL, the better.
Finally, total cholesterol includes a triglycerides count. These are another type of fat that can build up in the body and are considered the “building blocks” of cholesterol.
High levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL raise your risk for heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years, starting at age 20, which is when cholesterol levels can start to rise.
As we age, cholesterol levels tend to climb. Men are generally at a higher risk than women for higher cholesterol. However, a woman’s risk goes up after she enters menopause.
For those with high cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors, such as diabetes, more frequent testing is recommended.
Cholesterol chart for adults
According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), these are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.
All values are in mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) and are based on fasting measurements.
|Total cholesterol||HDL cholesterol||LDL cholesterol||Triglycerides|
|Good||Less than 200 (but the lower the better)||Ideal is 60 or higher; 40 or higher for men and 50 or higher for women is acceptable||Less than 100; below 70 if coronary artery disease is present||Less than 149; ideal is <100|
|Borderline to moderately elevated||200–239||n/a||130–159||150–199|
|High||240 or higher||60 or higher||160 or higher; 190 considered very high||200 or higher; 500 considered very high|
|Low||n/a||less than 40||n/a||n/a|